An evangelical church in Australia has been threatened with an oil fire for displaying a billboard message declaring that God created marriage between one man and one woman.
“On Facebook, a lot of the stuff has been quite vicious at times,” John Gill, senior pastor at Bellbowrie Community Church in Brisbane, told Daily Mail Australia. “I mean quite physically threatening. That’s been scary for some in the church.”
“One of the comments, for example, was a suggestion that people bring petrol down and set the church on fire,” Gill added chillingly. The pastor said that his church has 150 parishioners, and these responses have come after Bellbowrie Community Church put up a billboard defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
In an interesting twist, the person who shared a photo of the billboard on Facebook just happened to be an opponent of the message. Patrick Wood posted photos of either side of the billboard, with the message, “Their house, their hypocritical rules. Same sign, same day, opposite sides. I won’t forget their Marriage Equality stance.”
“God designed marriage between a man and a woman,” read the billboard. This was a direct reference to multiple scripture verses. Genesis 2:24 clearly states that “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus quotes this passage, endorsing the Genesis view of marriage.
On the other side, the sign read, “All people are respected and welcome here.”
While Wood and others interpret the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman to be exclusionary, meaning that LGBT people are not welcome, the one message is not incompatible with the other. It is fully possible for Christians to love LGBT people while disagreeing with same-sex marriage.
Indeed, a teacher from the New South Wales Central Coast told Daily Mail Australia that the two billboards were consistent with the Bible. “This is not a contradiction,” she said. “It is perfectly in order and reflects our Christian ethos: acceptance of individuals regardless while upholding the sanctity of marriage and simultaneously rejecting SSM with its implications.”
Even so, the billboard itself was vandalized over the weekend, so that it read, “God designed marriage between a man and a man.”
Australia is in the middle of a nationwide non-binding mail-in vote on whether or not to redefine marriage, including same-sex unions. The ballots are due to be returned by November 7.
Gill, the pastor at Bellbowrie, said the threats leveled against his church over the billboard emphasized the threat to religious freedom if Australia redefines marriage. He wondered specifically about a church’s freedom to express biblical doctrine in public, via billboards or other messages.
“At the moment, we know we have that freedom but certainly down the track, we have serious concerns about whether we’d continue to have that freedom or not,” the pastor said.
Those who fear that same-sex marriage will undermine religious freedom need only look to the United States and Britain for terrifying signs that these movements may be incompatible.
In the United States — where the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 — many Christians who gladly serve LGBT people in their normal business have been attacked by the government for refusing to serve same-sex weddings. Notable examples include Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, Michigan farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes, and Colorado baker Jack Phillips (whose case will come before the Supreme Court).
In fact, at least one LGBT group in Ohio announced its plans to target churches to force religious organizations to host same-sex weddings, regardless of their faith positions on marriage being between a man and a woman. In discussing cases where religious business owners choose to opt-out of serving same-sex weddings, openly gay megadonor Tim Gill declared, “We’re going to punish the wicked.”
In England, the speaker of the House of Commons recently declared that same-sex marriage won’t be “proper” unless churches cannot opt out from celebrating it. “I still feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right,” Commons Speaker John Bercow said.
More directly applicable to Australia may be the opinions of its own LGBTI community, which seem very hostile to religious freedom. In a survey early this year, LGBTI Australians said they would oppose any legal provision allowing churches, ministers, businesses, or civil celebrants to refuse to take part in a gay wedding.
Fifty-nine percent said religious celebrants should not be exempted from having to serve a same-sex wedding. Let that sink in — nearly 60 percent of LGBTI people in Australia say it should be illegal for a pastor or religious minister to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.
Furthermore, 94.3 percent said a church or religious organization should not be allowed to deny use of its property for a same-sex wedding. When the respondents were asked if they would allow this exemption in order to make same-sex marriage legal in Australia, 90.6 percent still opposed it.
A bill in Alabama might present the best solution to these problems. This proposal would outlaw marriage licenses, allowing the state to record a marriage via notary — without the need for a minister or officiant being involved at all.
“It is my belief that the state cannot make any kind of contract sacred,” the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Baldwin County), told PJ Media. Albritton does not intend to outlaw same-sex marriage, but merely to separate the state records on marriage from any religious blessing.
Interestingly, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, fully endorsed religious freedom last week. “Churches are free to marry whoever they like,” Turnbull said. He even defended a church in Australia which refused to marry a couple after the bride posted her support for legalizing same-sex marriage on social media.
“As strongly as I believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry, religious freedom is fundamental and it will be protected in any bill that emerges from this Parliament,” Turnbull declared.
Even if religious freedom would not be weakened by same-sex marriage, the issue of transgenderism opened an entirely new can of worms — in Australia, Britain, and the U.S. — about public schooling and parental rights.
Threats of arson against churches that support traditional marriage may be rare, but this event underscores the LGBT movement’s vitriol against biblical truth on sexuality.